Regardless of where you place yourself on the political spectrum, I urge you to read Nicholas Eberstadt’s recent essay on the state of the United States in the 21st century at Commentary, “Our Miserable 21st Century”:
On the morning of November 9, 2016, America’s elite—its talking and deciding classes—woke up to a country they did not know. To most privileged and well-educated Americans, especially those living in its bicoastal bastions, the election of Donald Trump had been a thing almost impossible even to imagine. What sort of country would go and elect someone like Trump as president? Certainly not one they were familiar with, or understood anything about.
Whatever else it may or may not have accomplished, the 2016 election was a sort of shock therapy for Americans living within what Charles Murray famously termed “the bubble” (the protective barrier of prosperity and self-selected associations that increasingly shield our best and brightest from contact with the rest of their society). The very fact of Trump’s election served as a truth broadcast about a reality that could no longer be denied: Things out there in America are a whole lot different from what you thought.
Yes, things are very different indeed these days in the “real America” outside the bubble. In fact, things have been going badly wrong in America since the beginning of the 21st century.
I think he makes a pretty good case that something has gone seriously awry, producing economic and health evidence to support it.
Reasonable people can differ in their opinions on the explanation for this. My own view is that significant proportions of the American people have rejected the heretofore prevailing mythology and ethos of America, without which, since we don’t have ties of blood or shared history, there isn’t much left of America.
Additionally, roughly a sixth of Americans arrived here from somewhere else. As I’ve documented here previously, immigrants may not arrive on our shores with much in the way of material possessions but they do carry their myths and their ethos with them and, with the loss of confidence in our own myths and ethos, they don’t see any compelling reason to change.
Keep in mind that when John Dewey laid the foundation for the American public school system more than a century ago it was under conditions that resemble our present ones more than any time in the intervening years. The explicit object of that system was to cultivate that shared mythology and ethos and inculcate it into the children of immigrants. How can you inculcate in others something in which you do not believe?
I presume the retort to Mr. Eberstadt’s observations will be that at least we have NetFlix, Facebook, and Google.